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Stealth campaign of super-wealthy to repeal estate tax exposed
From: "David Farber" <dave () farber net>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 14:21:22 -0400

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--- Begin Message --- From: Paul Levy <plevy () citizen org>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 13:13:42 -0400
For IP, if you wish.....

Paul Alan Levy
Public Citizen Litigation Group
1600 - 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 588-1000

Valerie Collins 4/25/2006 1:05 PM >>>
For Immediate Release:                                     Contact: Taylor Lincoln (202) 454-5197
April 25, 2006                                                       Robert Yule (202) 588-7703
                                                                     Christina Kasica (617) 432-2148, ext. 119 

Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy Expose Stealth Campaign of Super-Wealthy to Repeal Federal Estate Tax

Report Identifies 18 Families Behind Multimillion-Dollar Deceptive Lobbying Campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led 
by 18 super-wealthy families, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy at a 
press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive 
marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.

It reveals how 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the 
estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

The report, available at www.citizen.org, [specifically, at  http://www.citizen.org/documents/EstateTaxFinal.pdf] 
profiles the families and their businesses, which include the families behind Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell's soup, 
and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. Collectively, the list includes the first- and third-largest privately held companies in 
the United States, the richest family in Alabama and the world's largest retailer.

These families have sought to keep their activities anonymous by using associations to represent them and by forming a 
massive coalition of business and trade associations dedicated to pushing for estate tax repeal. The report details the 
groups they have hidden behind - the trade associations they have used, the lobbyists they have hired, and the 
anti-estate tax political action committees, 527s and organizations to which they have donated heavily. 

In a massive public relations campaign, the families have also misled the country by giving the mistaken impression 
that the estate tax affects most Americans. In particular, they have used small businesses and family farms as poster 
children for repeal, saying that the estate tax destroys both of these groups. But just more than one-fourth of one 
percent of all estates will owe any estate taxes in 2006. And the American Farm Bureau, a member of the anti-estate tax 
coalition, was unable when asked by The New York Times to cite a single example of a family being forced to sell its 
farm because of estate tax liability.

"This report exposes one of the biggest con jobs in recent history," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. 
"This long-running, secretive campaign funded by some of the country's wealthiest families has relied on deception to 
bamboozle the public not only about who must pay the estate tax, but about how repealing it will affect the country."

Said Lee Ferris, senior organizer for estate tax policy at UFE, "It's time for the majority of Americans who support 
the estate tax to speak out, and not let a handful of wealthy families sway Congress to twist the tax laws for their 
own benefit. Polls now show that most Americans support this tax and the revenue it yields to pay for vital services, 
especially given our nation's huge deficit."

While they extol the hard work of individual farmers and small businesses, most of the 18 families have been wealthy 
for generations; only five still include the people who first earned the family fortune. Members of the families are 
far less likely than most Americans to have paid taxes on their wealth; to a large extent, that wealth lies in assets 
that have appreciated but, unlike paychecks, have never been taxed.

These super-rich families have spent millions in personal wealth and used their companies' resources and lobbying power 
in repeated attempts to influence members of Congress to repeal the tax. They have financed groups who have launched 
multimillion-dollar attack ads against Republican and Democratic senators alike, including former Senate Minority 
Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Olympia Snow (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark 
Pryor (D-Ark.), Lincoln Chaffee (R-R.I.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

The stakes of the campaign are great, not only for the super-wealthy families, but for the public. If the families' 
repeal bid succeeds, it will cost the U.S. Treasury a trillion dollars in the first decade - roughly what it would cost 
to provide health insurance for every uninsured person in the United States.

"The estate tax should be regarded as just paying back to the country for all the wonderful things it's made possible 
for the people who have that wealth," said Bill Gates Sr. in an audio statement played at the press conference. "I 
don't think there's any great societal goal being served by inherited wealth. And certainly there's no sensible 
argument that I can think of for insisting on being able to pass the last penny of $100 million on to your three kids."

Added Elizabeth Letzler, an investment manager from New York who will be subject to the estate tax and who spoke at the 
press conference, "The current estate tax structure should permit any wealthy household to pass on a legacy of 
financial security, education and family heirlooms to the next generations." She challenged the families showcased in 
the report: "Do something spectacular during your life-time investing in the social welfare and well-being of the 
children and grandchildren at the bottom of the pyramid." Her daughter Stephanie, also in attendance, said, "If keeping 
the estate tax means a step closer to a debt-free treasury, a step closer to improved health care, Social Security, 
education, and every other program that makes me proud to be an American, show me where to sign the check."

Paul Newman, actor and founder of Newman's Own food company, agreed in a separate statement: "For those of us lucky 
enough to be born in this country and to have flourished here, the estate tax is a reasonable and appropriate way to 
return something to the common good. I'm proud to be among those supporting preservation of this tax, which is one of 
the fairest taxes we have."
Public Citizen (www.citizen.org) is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. 
United for a Fair Economy (www.faireconomy.org) is a national, non-partisan, nonprofit organization that spotlights the 
growing economic divide in the United States.

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